# Gary Johnson

The 2016 Election: A view from The People’s Republic of Johnson County

A resident offers a view of the 2016 election from the “People’s Republic of Johnson County.” -promoted by desmoinesdem

If Johnson County, Iowa were its own state or country, Hillary Clinton would be president today and Patty Judge one of our two senators, Bruce Braley being the other. Using public data from the Johnson County Auditor webpage, turnout for the 2016 presidential election was 77,476 votes, which is 84 percent of registered voters. Secretary Clinton pulled in 65 percent of the vote and Judge 57 percent in her bid to become US Senator. In the presidential race, Donald Trump received 27 percent of the vote, Gary Johnson 4 percent, and write-ins were higher than any other candidate at 1.2 percent.

John Deeth notes in his blog that Johnson County, Iowa tops the next best performing county for Clinton by 14 percent, and in the recent past was the only wins for Jack Hatch and Roxanne Conlin. Johnson was the only county to not favor Terry Branstad in his 2014 reelection. If more of the nation had voted like Johnson County, things would have looked more like what nearly every news source was predicting. The figure of 84 percent is remarkable for a turnout and press coverage reflected this, but I will return to this in a moment.

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Iowa results certified: Clinton carried early vote, Trump crushed election day

The scale of Iowa’s unexpectedly large swing toward Donald Trump has been clear for nearly a month. But until today, we didn’t know how much early and election-day voters contributed to transforming Iowa from a bellwether state to one that voted much more Republican than the rest of the country, from a state the Democratic presidential nominee carried by nearly 6 points in 2012 to a state the Republican nominee won by more than 9 points four years later.

According to numbers released following the official state canvass, Hillary Clinton went into election day with a cushion less than half as large as Barack Obama’s early vote lead in 2012. Meanwhile, Trump’s advantage among election-day voters was more than four times as large as Mitt Romney’s.

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Record-breaking showing gives Libertarians political party status in Iowa

Unofficial results from Tuesday’s election show Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson received 58,796 votes in Iowa, about 3.8 percent of ballots cast.

Before this year, the most successful Libertarian ticket in Iowa gained 1 percent of the vote, way back in 1980. Although Johnson wasn’t able to maintain his much higher polling numbers from the late summer, he more than quadrupled his 2012 raw vote total and share of the vote here.

The result gives the Libertarian Party full “political party status” in Iowa. What does that mean in practical terms?

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Weekend open thread: Final Iowa polls and last-minute GOTV edition

No need to ask what’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers. Three days from now, this election will be over except for the recounts. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have released their closing arguments to television viewers. Clinton’s 60-second ad “Roar” is a lot more upbeat than Trump’s two-minute “Argument for America.” UPDATED to add: the Trump commercial pushes some anti-Semitic buttons.

Nearly 600,000 Iowans have already voted. I enclose below the latest absentee ballot figures, as of today and at the same point in the 2012 campaign. The Democratic lead in ballots received by county auditors stands at 41,881. On the Saturday before election day 2012, Democrats had banked 65,099 more votes than Republicans.

The Des Moines Register released toplines from Selzer & Co’s final Iowa poll of the year a few minutes ago. It’s not good news for Democrats: Trump leads Clinton by 46 percent to 39 percent, with 6 percent supporting Libertarian Gary Johnson and 1 percent the Green Party’s Jill Stein. Last month’s Selzer poll showed Trump 4 points ahead.

The latest surveys from Simpson College/RABA Research and Emerson College both showed Trump leading Clinton by 44 percent to 41 percent in a field including multiple candidates.

Loras College in Dubuque released its final Iowa poll earlier today: Clinton 44 percent, Trump 43 percent, Johnson and Stein 3 percent each, and 7 percent undecided. Loras found a 10-point advantage for Trump (47-37) among respondents who said they had not yet voted. Clinton’s net favorability (-8) was substantially better than Trump’s (-36). I enclose below excerpts from the Loras polling memo and Jason Noble’s write-up of the Selzer poll in the Des Moines Register. I’ll update later with more details as the Register publishes further results.

Lots of pundits have written off Iowa already, given the demographics that favor Trump (a mostly white population, older than in other swing states and with a relatively small proportion of college graduates). Clinton’s campaign is working GOTV hard. A field office near you could use your help these last few days. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to strangers on the phone or at the doorstep, you can bring food to campaign staff and volunteers, or offer to be a poll watcher on election day.

I can’t remember more perfect weather for canvassing the weekend before a general election. For those planning to hit the doors tomorrow, Monday, or Tuesday, here are my best tips and pointers from superstar volunteer Laura Hubka, the Howard County Democratic Party chair.

Some GOTV “scripts” are geared toward voters already identified as supporters of Democratic candidates. These people don’t need persuading. Volunteers will remind them of their polling place location and opening times and will ask for their plan to vote. Research has shown that when people articulate their plan (for instance, before work or after dropping the kids off at school), they are more likely to follow through and cast a ballot. Clinton’s campaign has an online tool for voters and hilarious YouTube video of Joe Biden (enclosed below) on why making a plan “is like the whole secret of life.”

All 99 county auditors’ offices will be open for early voting in person on Monday, November 7, from 8 am to 5 pm.

Important reminders for absentee voters who have not yet mailed back their ballots: late-arriving absentee ballots must be postmarked by November 7 in order to be counted. Post offices no longer routinely attach postmarks, so either 1) take your ballot to a post office on Monday and request a postmark, 2) hand-deliver your ballot to your county auditor’s office by 9 pm on November 8, or 3) ask a campaign volunteer to pick up your completed ballot so it can be hand-delivered on time.

Make sure to follow instructions carefully: fill in ovals completely, seal the marked ballot in the secrecy envelope, seal that envelope inside the affidavit envelope, and sign and seal the affidavit envelope.

If you’ve changed your mind about voting absentee, bring your unmarked ballot to your regular polling place on November 8, so you can “surrender” it and receive a regular ballot. If you don’t have your absentee ballot with you, poll workers will make you fill out a provisional ballot instead.

Final note: political junkies can enter Bleeding Heartland’s Iowa election prediction contest by posting a comment in this thread before 7 am on November 8.

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Two polls show small Trump lead in Iowa

Donald Trump is slightly ahead of Hillary Clinton among likely voters in Iowa, according to two polls that were in the field this week. The latest Simpson College/RABA Research poll shows Trump beating Clinton by 44 percent to 41 percent in a five-way race, with 5 percent of respondents supporting Libertarian Gary Johnson, 2 percent each for the Green Party’s Jill Stein and independent Evan McMullin, and 6 percent unsure. Head to head, Trump leads Clinton by 46 percent to 44 percent.

Today Emerson College released Iowa numbers showing Trump ahead in a four-way race by 44 percent to 41 percent, with 5 percent for Johnson, 4 percent for Stein and 5 percent undecided. Emerson does not appear to have polled a two-way race.

Strangely, neither survey shows a large difference between men’s and women’s voting preferences in Iowa, despite data (and common sense) indicating that this year’s presidential race is shaping up to have the largest gender gap in history. RABA Research found men break for Trump 46-37 in a five-way race and 50-40 head to head, while women support Clinton 44-42 in a larger field and 47-43 against Trump alone. Emerson College’s results: a 45-41 advantage for Trump among men and a 44-42 lead for Clinton among women. I find those numbers very difficult to believe.

I enclose below more findings and notes on methodology from the new polls. Most disturbing, from Simpson College/RABA Research: only 66 percent of respondents said “Americans are ready for a woman to be president.” Some 20 percent said Americans are not ready, the rest were unsure. The cross-tabs show 37 percent of Republicans, 25 percent of Iowans over age 65, and 26 percent of those without a college degree say the country isn’t ready for a woman president.

Don’t forget to enter Bleeding Heartland’s election prediction contest.

At least a third of Iowans who will vote this year have already returned their ballots. Click here for tables showing the latest early vote totals. Iowa Democrats will go into election day with a significant absentee ballot lead, but smaller than the cushion Barack Obama had in 2012.

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Trump shut out of major Iowa newspaper endorsements

A long and growing list of U.S. newspapers that normally support Republican candidates have refused to endorse Donald Trump for president.

Editorial boards at several large Iowa publications joined the crowd.

Not only that, some went so far as to endorse Hillary Clinton, including one newspaper that had not supported a Democrat for president in my lifetime.

I enclose below highlights from thirteen lead editorials endorsing either Clinton or neither major-party candidate. Earlier this year, I thought some conservative editorial boards might choose Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson as an alternative to Trump, but I am not aware of any Iowa newspapers to do so.

Speaking of endorsements, film-maker Michael Moore spoke to Rolling Stone magazine recently about his “forbidden love” for Clinton and his fear that Trump, whom he considers a “sociopath,” could win the election. Some of Moore’s comments surprised me, since he campaigned for Ralph Nader in 2000 and was a big Bernie Sanders backer in the primaries. His reasoning tracked closely to that of Iowa’s best-known Nader endorser, Ed Fallon. Speaking to Bleeding Heartland in August, Fallon discussed that choice and why he’s discouraging activists on the left from voting for third-party candidates this year.

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Latest Iowa polls and election forecasts ahead of the third debate

For reasons I cannot comprehend, few pollsters have surveyed Iowa voters since the first presidential debate. Even fewer Iowa polls have come out since the release of a 2005 videotape sparked the latest Donald Trump meltdown.

Forty years of data indicate that third presidential debates “have had less of an impact on the polls” than earlier debates. (Dan Guild reviewed here how first debates have affected previous presidential races.)

In lieu of a time-wasting “curtain-raiser” about things to watch for at tonight’s big showdown in Las Vegas, let’s look at what the latest opinion polls and election forecasts say about chances for Trump or Hillary Clinton to win Iowa’s six electoral votes. Last time Bleeding Heartland covered this territory, several analysts had shifted Iowa from “lean Democrat” to “toss-up” or from “toss-up” to “lean Republican.”

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IA-02 GOP nominee Christopher Peters joins #NeverTrump camp

Dr. Christopher Peters, the Republican nominee in Iowa’s second Congressional district, announced today that he will not vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. In a prepared statement, Peters said his “views don’t fully align with either party’s platform” and asserted that neither major-party nominee has exhibited the “character and judgment necessary to be president.” He rejected the “lesser of two evils” approach to voting, which in his view won’t “bring us closer to fixing” a “deeply flawed” political system.

Since launching his campaign in March, Peters has often promised to be an “independent voice” for Iowans, in contrast to five-term Representative Dave Loebsack, who “votes with the Democrats more than 90 percent of the time.” Up to now, he had avoided taking a clear stand on Trump’s candidacy. For example, speaking to Kevin Barry of KGAN-TV in Cedar Rapids in May, Peters said, “The top of the ticket I can’t control, so I’m not going to worry about it. It’s kind of like taking the Serenity Prayer at a certain point. My focus is the second district, specifically Iowa, more broadly the country as a whole. […] I don’t think Mr. Trump cares whether I endorse him or not, because he’s rich, and I’m not that rich. So I think he’ll do just fine. […] I don’t think it affects this race too much, or in any way I can control.”

When Barry pressed Peters on whether he is behind Trump, Peters replied, “He’s got till November to earn my vote. We don’t know who all the candidates are going to be yet, and we don’t know all their policy positions. Again, if I’m an independent voice, and that’s who I am, I’ll vote [for] whoever I want to vote for in November, and I haven’t made that decision yet.”

Peters did not attend the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, nor has he appeared at any Trump campaign rally in Iowa. He spoke at U.S. Senator Joni Ernst’s Roast and Ride fundraiser in late August, but left that event before Trump’s featured speech and photo op with Iowa GOP leaders. A Libertarian candidate for Iowa Senate in 2010, Peters went to Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson’s rally in Des Moines over Labor Day weekend but didn’t endorse Johnson then or now.

In today’s statement, Peters said “Trump’s behavior and temperament are only a part of the problem. He has repeatedly demonstrated a poor grasp of constitutionalism, civil rights, the rule of law, the role of diplomacy versus military interventionism, and even fundamental economics. I should have spoken out against him much earlier, and regret that I failed to do so.” Scroll down to read the full commentary.

Peters and Loebsack are will attend their first candidate forum today at the Coralville Public Library, beginning at 2 pm. IA-02 leans Democratic, with a partisan voting index of D+4. The latest figures from the Secretary of State’s office indicate that the district’s 24 counties contain 171,027 active registered Democrats, 146,108 Republicans, and 172,729 no-party voters.

Although dozens of GOP members of Congress have joined the #NeverTrump ranks, Peters is the only federal candidate in Iowa willing to repudiate the party’s nominee. To my knowledge, only two other Iowa Republicans on the ballot this year have said publicly they will not vote for Trump: Hardin County Auditor Jessica Lara and State Representative Ken Rizer. State Senator Jack Whitver, who is up for re-election in 2018, has called on Trump to step aside without saying whether he would vote for Trump, assuming he remains the nominee. State Senator David Johnson, whose term also runs through 2018, left the Republican Party in June to express his opposition to Trump.

Final note: While numerous Republicans cited their concern for daughters or granddaughters when denouncing the explosive Trump videotape from 2005, I applaud Peters for condemning Trump’s “character deficiencies” as a father of three teenage sons: “if I ever learned that any of them grew up to be men who conduct themselves like Trump, I would be deeply disappointed.”

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Weekend open thread: Des Moines Register poll and latest Trump uproar

Donald Trump leads Hillary Clinton by 43 percent to 39 percent in the new Iowa poll by Selzer & Co for the Des Moines Register. It’s the first Selzer poll here since before the June 7 primary elections, and its findings are in line with other recent statewide surveys showing Trump ahead. Some 6 percent of respondents favored Libertarian Gary Johnson and 2 percent Green Party candidate Jill Stein.

This poll was in the field from October 3-6, before Friday’s explosive news that Trump was videotaped in 2005 bragging to an entertainment reporter about how he liked to assault women he found attractive (“I just start kissing them. […] I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. […] Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything”). Jason Noble’s write-up notes that Trump’s attitude toward women was already among the biggest concerns for Iowa voters about the GOP nominee.

I enclose below excerpts from that story and from others about the latest Trump uproar. A separate post is in progress about the hole Iowa Republican leaders have dug for themselves by fully embracing Trump’s candidacy. All of our state’s top GOP elected officials are standing behind their party’s nominee, even as they condemn his comments in the 2005 video.

At tonight’s Reagan dinner in Des Moines, Iowa GOP chair Jeff Kaufmann said the country has “two flawed candidates” but confirmed he will vote for Trump. Republican National Committeeman Steve Scheffler offered a prayer expressing hope that people will understand “elections are not always about perfection.” U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley didn’t mention Trump in his speech, which framed the election as a battle over the direction of the Supreme Court for the next 40 years. Senator Joni Ernst bashed Clinton’s character while not discussing Trump, whom she praised at the Republican National Convention and invited to headline her biggest event of the year. Governor Terry Branstad, whose son Eric is Trump’s campaign manager in Iowa, told the Reagan dinner crowd, “We need to elect Donald Trump and Mike Pence to make America great again!”

This is an open thread: all topics welcome. UPDATE: Radio Iowa’s O.Kay Henderson posted the audio from most of the Reagan dinner speeches. The featured guest speaker, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas,

said Trump has let the GOP down “again.”

“The words on that tape were demeaning and they were shameful,” Cotton said and, as he continued, one woman yelled “Impeach Hillary” and others grew agitated. “Donald Trump doesn’t have much of a choice at this point. Tomorrow night at that debate, he needs to throw himself on the mercy of the American people. He needs to take full responsibility for his words and his actions and he needs to beg for their forgiveness and he needs to pledge that he’s going to finally change his ways.”

If Trump will not act contrite, Cotton said Trump needs to consider stepping aside so an “elder statesman” may run in his place. That declaration was initially greeted with silence, then many in the crowd applauded.

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The First Debate: Irresistible Force Meets Immovable Object

A must-read review of what recent history tells us about the impact of presidential debates. You can find Dan Guild’s past writing for this site here and here. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Debates have arguably remade the race for the Presidency in 1976, 1980, 2000, 2004 and 2012. Even in races where arguably they are less important, they still are significant events. Having said all of this there are patterns that repeat themselves. Guideposts that can help evaluate how they will affect this race. Here they are:

1. Typically debates consolidate support within their Party for each candidate. Where this is unequal, the candidate who is behind tends to benefit.

2. In races where there is significant discontent, debates often help the candidate of the party that is on the outside.

3. Third Parties frequently decline afterwards

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Quinnipiac finds Trump ahead in Iowa

Donald Trump leads Hillary Clinton by 50 percent to 44 percent in a two-way race, and by 44 percent to 37 percent in a field including Libertarian Gary Johnson (10 percent) and Green Party candidate Jill Stein (2 percent), according to the new Quinnipiac survey of 612 likely Iowa voters. Trump has gained ground since last month’s Quinnipiac poll showing a small lead for Clinton in both the two-way and four-way races. The polling memo noted Trump’s 52 percent to 26 percent lead among men, which overcame Clinton’s 47 percent to 37 percent advantage with women. Trump also had higher levels of support among Republican respondents (86 percent) than Clinton did among Democrats (83 percent).

Nuggets from the cross-tabs:

• Independents split 38 percent Trump, 33 percent Clinton, 19 percent Johnson, and 4 percent Stein in a four-way race. Against Clinton alone, Trump led 47 percent to 41 percent among independent respondents.

• As expected, Trump has a big lead among non-college-educated whites: 55 percent to 41 percent in a two-way, 48 percent to 33 percent in a larger field.

• Surprisingly, Trump leads among whites with a college degree (49 percent to 44 percent)

• By self-reported party identification, 33 percent of this poll’s respondents were Republicans, 30 percent Democrats, 33 percent independents, and 5 percent other/don’t know. That party breakdown better reflects the 2012 general electorate in Iowa than did last week’s Monmouth poll.

According to Quinnipiac, its poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points–though that number refers to only one of many potential sources of error in opinion polls. I am seeking further details on Quinnipiac’s likely voter screen, which wasn’t explained in the note on methodology. Nate Cohn’s latest post at the New York Times Upshot blog explained how four different approaches to separating “likely voters” from other poll respondents produced four different results from the same set of interviews with North Carolina voters.

Thoughts on Hillary Clinton underperforming in Iowa polls (updated)

Several forecasters have recently upgraded Donald Trump’s chances of winning Iowa’s six electoral votes. Only a month ago, Larry Sabato’s “Crystal Ball” and FiveThirtyEight.com both considered Iowa a “lean Democratic” state. Sabato now sees Iowa leaning Republican, while FiveThirtyEight gives Trump about a two-thirds chance of winning Iowa in different scenarios.

This week, both The Fix at the Washington Post and NPR’s Domenico Montanaro moved Iowa from toss-up to lean Republican.

Forecasters that still see Iowa as a toss-up include the Cook Political Report and NBC News, though it’s been a couple of weeks since NBC updated their battleground map. The New York Times Upshot puts a 53 percent probability on Trump winning here.

The latest Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report also shifted its Iowa rating in Republicans’ favor, though that forecast still sees our state as “toss-up/tilt DEM.”

Why isn’t Hillary Clinton doing better in a state Barack Obama carried twice?

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Another poll shows a nearly-tied presidential race in Iowa

Adding to the consensus that Iowa’s six electoral votes could go either way, a new poll by RABA Research for Simpson College shows Donald Trump leading Hillary Clinton by 43 percent to 42 percent in a two-way race or by 40 percent to 39 percent in a field including Libertarian Gary Johnson (10 percent) and Green Party candidate Jill Stein (3 percent). The remaining 8 percent of respondents were undecided.

Full poll results are here; I enclose below the page containing the cross-tabs.

Clinton is winning women by 43 percent to 37 percent in a four-way race and by 46-38 against Trump alone. Trump is winning men by 44-34 when Johnson and Stein are included and by 48-38 against Clinton alone. Among the 40 percent of respondents who identified as evangelicals, just 56 percent back Trump in a four-way race and 57 percent in a two-way race.

Clinton leads among respondents who have a college degree, but she is not winning that group by enough to compensate for Trump’s advantage among non-college-educated voters. The latest census data indicate that about 26 percent of Iowans at least 25 years old have a bachelor’s degree or post-graduate education.

Like other recent polls, RABA’s survey suggests that third-party candidates are drawing roughly equally from voters who would otherwise lean toward the Democratic or Republican nominees. Johnson remains on track to far exceed any previous Libertarian candidate’s showing in Iowa. This morning FiveThirtyEight.com’s Harry Enten examined Clinton’s underperformance with young millennials (18-25), who are more likely than older voters to support third-party candidates.

Any comments about the presidential race are welcome in this thread. Trump’s campaign just started running television commercials in Iowa this month. Scroll down to see the video and transcript of the latest spot, a rapid response to the weekend’s news that Clinton had referred to the GOP nominee’s supporters as “a basket of deplorables.” Charles Blow wrote the best take I’ve seen on that gaffe.

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Thoughts on Gary Johnson's Des Moines rally and Iowa prospects

Libertarian presidential candidate and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson made his first Iowa campaign stop this year over the holiday weekend. His September 3 rally in Des Moines attracted hundreds of people, making it possibly the largest Libertarian event in Iowa history. You can watch his full speech at C-SPAN or Caffeinated Thoughts.

Johnson will qualify for the ballot in all 50 states and is consistently polling far better than the Green Party’s Jill Stein, the only other minor-party candidate routinely included in public opinion surveys. I continue to hear the Libertarian’s radio ads on various Des Moines-based stations and have seen pro-Johnson television commercials by the Purple PAC on some cable networks.

The four most recent Iowa polls measured Johnson’s support at 8 percent (Emerson College), 12 percent (Quinnipiac), 6 percent (Suffolk), and 12 percent (Marist). Polls have historically overstated support for third-party candidates. Nevertheless, if the competition between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump remains very close here, even a 2-3 percent showing for Johnson could determine who wins Iowa’s six electoral votes.

Though I wasn’t able to attend Saturday’s rally, listening to Johnson’s stump speech reinforced my view that he is on track to outperform all previous Libertarian presidential candidates in Iowa by a considerable margin.

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Poll sampling landlines only shows Trump ahead by 4, Grassley by 11

The campaigns of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley were eager to spread the word on Friday about the new Emerson College Iowa poll. Trump led Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton by 44 percent to 39 percent among Iowans sampled on August 31 and September 1, with Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson gaining 8 percent and the Green Party’s Jill Stein 1 percent. Grassley led Democratic challenger Patty Judge by 51 percent to 40 percent in the same poll.

Buried at the bottom of the polling memo and not mentioned in most of the related media coverage: Emerson sampled its 600 Iowa respondents on landlines only.

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Iowa among the target states for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson

Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson has begun airing radio commercials in Iowa. I heard some of the spots on stations in the Des Moines market over the weekend and will update this post with full transcripts if I can record them. Daniel Strauss reported for Politico on August 26 that the Libertarian candidate “is spending $806,195 this month on radio ads in Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wisconsin.”

One of the ads features Johnson arguing that “if a Democrat is elected president, if a Republican is elected president, in four years we will still be at war, America will be four years deeper in debt, we will have four more years of rising taxes.”

A second ad is Johnson arguing against a two-party system.

“Google me, 60 percent of you have said you want another choice in 2016 and now you have one in me,” Johnson says in the ad. “We the people have a chance to do something in 2016 that may not come again in our lifetime. We have a legitimate chance to elect one of our own to the highest office in the land.”

Iowa may be an appealing place to advertise because air time is less expensive here than in many other swing states.

Super-PACs supporting the Libertarian ticket have produced some television and radio commercials, but I haven’t seen or heard any of those yet. AUGUST 31 UPDATE: This Purple PAC ad is on the air in the Des Moines market. I’ve added the video below.

The early advertising push is designed to boost Johnson’s support in national polls to at least 15 percent. The Presidential Debate Commission has said candidates must hit that threshold to be included in the three debates featuring presidential nominees and the one vice presidential debate.

No Libertarian presidential candidate has ever won more than 1 percent of the vote in Iowa; I compiled our state’s results for all previous tickets here. In the last three public polls of likely Iowa voters, Johnson had support from 12 percent, 6 percent, and 12 percent of respondents in a four-way race against Democrat Hillary Clinton, Republican Donald Trump, and Jill Stein of the Green Party.

The Libertarian Party of Iowa has a far stronger organization than any other third party in this state. In addition to Johnson and vice presidential nominee Bill Weld, Libertarian candidates are running for Iowa’s U.S. Senate seat, for the U.S. House in the third Congressional district, for six Iowa Senate seats, and for twelve Iowa House seats. Some of these candidates already have yard signs and other campaign materials.

In contrast, the Green Party did not nominate any candidates in Iowa other than Stein and her running mate Ajamu Baraka, even though access to the general election ballot is relatively easy here.

Johnson’s first rally in Iowa this election cycle is scheduled for this Saturday, September 3, at the Grand View University Johnson Wellness Center, 200 Grandview Avenue in Des Moines. Doors open at 1 pm. Stein will headline a Green Party rally at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines on Sunday, September 11.

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Ten presidential candidates qualify for the Iowa ballot

The filing deadline to run in Iowa’s general election ended at 5 pm today, and the Secretary of State’s Office has updated the list of candidates who submitted nominating papers and petitions with enough signatures. The following ten presidential tickets will appear on Iowa ballots:

2016 presidential candidates in Iowa
Names Party affiliation
Donald J. Trump/Michael R. Pence Republican
Hillary Clinton/Tim Kaine Democratic
Darrell L. Castle/Scott N. Bradley Constitution Party
Jill Stein/Ajamu Baraka Iowa Green Party
Dan R. Vacek/Mark G. Elworth Legal Marijuana Now
Gary Johnson/Bill Weld Libertarian
Lynn Kahn/Jay Stolba New Independent Party
Gloria La Riva/Dennis J. Banks Party for Socialism and Liberation
Rocky Roque De La Fuente/Michael Steinberg Nominated By Petition
Evan McMullin/Nathan Johnson Nominated By Petition

The last three public polls in Iowa put Johnson at 12 percent, 6 percent, and 12 percent in a four-way race against Clinton, Trump, and Stein. Although those surveys probably overstate Johnson’s support, the unusual unpopularity of this year’s major-party nominees gives the Libertarian a good chance to improve on all of his party’s previous showings in Iowa. Click here to view results for Libertarian presidential candidates going back to 1976. At a Polk County Democratic event last night, a number of activists were concerned that Johnson’s name was not yet on the Secretary of State’s candidate list, because Johnson is presumed to draw more support from traditionally Republican-leaning voters. Libertarian activists cut it close by submitting nominating papers today, but all’s well that ends well.

Others who filed on the last possible day included Evan McMullin, a former CIA officer who launched his presidential campaign only last week, and the candidates for the New Independent Party and Legal Marijuana Now, which seem like decent names for picking up protest votes.

Five candidates qualified to run for Iowa’s U.S. Senate seat: Republican Charles E. Grassley, Democrat Patty Judge, Libertarian Charles Aldrich, Jim Hennager of the New Independent Party, and Michael Luick-Thrams, “Nominated By Petition.”

Only major-party candidates will appear on the ballot in three of Iowa’s four Congressional districts: Republican Rod Blum and Democrat Monica Vernon in IA-01, Republican Christopher Peters and Democrat Dave Loebsack in IA-02, Republican Steve King and Democrat Kim Weaver in IA-04.

The field will be more crowded in IA-03, with Republican David Young, Democrat Jim Mowrer, Libertarian Bryan Jack Holder, and two candidates to be listed as “Nominated By Petition”: Claudia Addy and Joe Grandanette.

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Q-poll shows Clinton slightly ahead of Trump in Iowa

Yet another Iowa poll shows a close race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Quinnipiac surveyed 846 “likely voters” between August 9 and 16, producing a statistical margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points. Clinton led Trump by 47 percent to 44 percent in a two-way race, and by 41 percent to 39 percent in a field also including Libertarian Gary Johnson (12 percent) and Jill Stein of the Green Party (3 percent).

The Quinnipiac polling memo notes the large gender gap:

[Iowa] women back Clinton 56 – 38 percent, while men back Trump 51 – 37 percent. Trump leads 85 – 8 percent among Republicans. Independent voters are divided, with 45 percent for Trump and 41 percent for Clinton. Democrats back Clinton 97 – 1 percent.

Iowa voters give Clinton and Trump negative favorability ratings, 37 – 58 percent for her and 33 – 60 percent for him.

With both major-party nominees so well-known and so unpopular, and relatively few voters undecided with two and a half months to go, the key to winning Iowa will be executing an effective turnout operation, rather than a persuasion strategy.

Democrats have been dominating the “air war” this summer; Trump has yet to run any general-election television commercials, while Clinton’s campaign and allies including the super-PAC VoteVets have been running lots of tv ads during the summer Olympics. (I enclose below videos of two spots now in rotation.) Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine received lots of media coverage in Iowa’s largest markets today, headlining a morning rally in Cedar Rapids before making an unscheduled Iowa State Fair visit in the afternoon. Trump will return to Iowa for Senator Joni Ernst’s “Roast and Ride” fundraiser on August 27, which is sure to receive heavy media attention statewide.

The “ground war” will be especially important once early voting begins on September 29. More than 43 percent of the Iowans who cast ballots in the 2012 presidential election voted early, and women are more likely than men to vote before election day. Iowa Democrats registered more new voters in the final weeks of the 2012 campaign and did a better job identifying and turning out no-party voters who supported President Barack Obama.

Margins of error for subsamples are always higher than for an opinion poll as a whole, but let’s assume Trump is really ahead among Iowa no-party voters, as Quinnipiac’s poll indicates. Effective GOTV by the Democratic coordinated campaign could compensate for that problem by banking more votes from Democrats and independents already identified as Clinton supporters. (Democrats have two dozen Iowa field offices open already.) The Quinnipiac sample consisted of 28 percent self-identified Democrats, 28 percent Republicans, and 39 percent independents.

Any comments about the presidential race are welcome in this thread. Cross-tabs for the Quinnipiac poll are available here.

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Trump up by 1, Grassley by 10 in new Suffolk Iowa poll

Suffolk University’s new poll of Iowa “likely voters” shows Donald Trump leading Hillary Clinton by 41 percent to 40 percent in a two-way race and by 37 percent to 36 percent in a field including Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson (6 percent) and the Green Party’s Jill Stein (3 percent). Suffolk’s news release noted that 53 percent of respondents expect Clinton to win the election, while 31 percent think Trump will win, and 16 percent were unsure. A higher share of respondents thought Trump was “honest and trustworthy” (34 percent) than said the same of Clinton (29 percent). Johnson did best in Iowa’s southwest counties, while Stein had 9 percent support among respondents between the ages of 18 and 34, a group presumably including a lot of Bernie Sanders backers.

After the jump I’ve posted a few more numbers that caught my eye from Suffolk’s full results and cross-tabs, along with excerpts from Jason Noble’s reports for the Des Moines Register this week on the likely paths to victory for Trump and Clinton in Iowa.

Suffolk found U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley ahead of Democratic challenger Patty Judge by 52 percent to 42 percent–the same margin as in the Marist poll released Tuesday. However, the Marist survey indicated a slight lead for Clinton in the presidential race. Grassley’s favorability numbers in the Suffolk poll were good for an incumbent on the ballot: 54.4 percent favorable, 31 percent unfavorable. Judge was not nearly as well known, with 32.4 percent of respondents expressing a favorable opinion and 27.8 percent an unfavorable one.

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Clinton up by 4, Grassley by 10 in new Iowa poll (updated)

The first public poll of Iowa since the Republican and Democratic national conventions shows Hillary Clinton slightly ahead of Donald Trump by 41 percent to 37 percent. Marist surveyed 899 registered voters for NBC News and the Wall Street Journal between August 3 and 7, producing a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percent. In last month’s Marist poll of Iowans, Clinton led by 42 percent to 39 percent.

When the 2016 presidential race is expanded to four candidates – including Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson and the Green Party’s Jill Stein – Clinton and Trump are tied at 35 percent each in Iowa, with Johnson at 12 percent and Stein at 6 percent. (Last month in the state, Clinton and Trump were tied in the four-way horserace at 37 percent.)

Historically, third-party presidential candidates have received far fewer votes in November than their summer poll numbers would suggest. But even assuming Marist is greatly overstating support for Johnson and Stein, those candidates could set records for their respective parties in Iowa. No Libertarian presidential candidate has ever surpassed 1 percent of the vote in our state. The Green Party’s best showing in a presidential election here was roughly 2.2 percent, which Ralph Nader received in 2000.

Both major-party presidential candidates are underwater among Iowa voters on favorability. Some 36 percent of Marist’s respondents have a favorable view of Clinton, 58 percent unfavorable. Those would be terrible numbers if Trump weren’t in even worse shape at 31 percent favorable, 64 percent unfavorable in the same poll. Without seeing more detailed results, it’s hard to tell which candidate has more room to grow support. Some recent surveys have found that remaining undecided voters “lean toward being [Bernie] Sanders holdouts,” which could mean more potential growth for Clinton than for Trump. That said, I’m 100 times more confident that Clinton will win 270 electoral votes than I am of her carrying Iowa. She is generally polling better in states that are more diverse than Iowa, where more than 86 percent of residents are non-Hispanic whites.

UPDATE: Nate Cohn pointed out that Iowa is the state “where Democrats are most dependent on less [educated] white voters.” Non-college-educated whites were a big part of Barack Obama’s winning coalition here. According to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 26.4 percent of Iowans who are at least 25 years old have a bachelor’s degree or higher level of education.

Marist found U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley leading Democratic challenger Patty Judge by 52 percent to 42 percent. That’s a smaller lead for Grassley than he has enjoyed in most of his re-election campaigns, but better than the single-digit leads other pollsters found for the senator earlier this summer. Iowa Republicans will be encouraged to see Grassley above the 50 percent mark. The senator confirmed to Radio Iowa today that he is still supporting Trump for president, citing scheduling conflicts to explain his absence from the GOP nominee’s rallies in Davenport and Cedar Rapids on July 28 and in Des Moines on August 5. In a statement I enclose below, Judge demanded that Grassley explain “exactly what Donald Trump meant” when he said today at a North Carolina rally, “If she [Hillary Clinton] gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know” (full comments here).

In related news, Senator Joni Ernst’s office has not yet responded to my request for comment on the extraordinary public letter released yesterday by 50 former high-ranking national security officials in Republican administrations, explaining why they will not vote for Trump. Ernst has repeatedly depicted Trump as the best candidate to keep America safe, but the former security officials warned Trump “would be a dangerous President,” lacking the requisite “character, values, experience,” or “temperament,” while displaying “little understanding of America’s vital national interests” and “alarming ignorance of basic facts of contemporary international politics.”

SECOND UPDATE: Added below some other findings from the Marist poll; click here for full results.

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Monmouth poll: Trump leads Clinton by 2 in Iowa, Grassley leads Judge by 10

Donald Trump leads Hillary Clinton by 44 percent to 42 percent, and U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley leads Democratic challenger Patty Judge by 52 percent to 42 percent, according to a Monmouth University poll released today.

Only 6 percent of Iowa respondents surveyed between July 8 and 11 were undecided on the presidential race. Monmouth also found 6 percent support for Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson, 1 percent for the Green Party’s Jill Stein, and 2 percent saying they will vote for some other candidate. No Libertarian presidential candidate has ever received more than 1 percent of the vote in Iowa. Historically, minor-party presidential candidates have performed far less well in November elections than their summer poll numbers would suggest.

Iowa is a toss-up state in many election forecasts, and I’ve always expected a close race here, so I am not surprised to see Trump slightly ahead in a poll. That said, these Monmouth data are difficult to believe:

One unusual finding in the poll is that Trump leads among voters under 50 years old in Iowa. In Monmouth polls conducted nationally and in other states, Clinton has held an advantage with younger voters. Specifically, 51% of Iowa voters under age 50 currently support Trump, compared to 32% for Clinton, 7% for Johnson, and 3% for Stein or another candidate. Among voters age 50 and older, Clinton has the edge with 50% support, compared to 38% for Trump, 4% for Johnson and 1% for Stein or another candidate.

Monmouth’s numbers indicate that Grassley is in for his most competitive re-election bid. The last two public polls of Iowa’s U.S. Senate race were by Public Policy Polling, which does a lot of work for Democratic clients, including Judge’s campaign during the primary. So it was easy for Republicans to dismiss PPP’s findings showing Grassley below 50 percent and only 7 points ahead. In Monmouth’s survey, Grassley leads by just 10 points, which for him is a very small margin. He enjoyed larger leads in 2010 polls, other than those by Research 2000, a firm later discredited for apparently fabricating data.

You can’t say Monmouth’s sample is skewed to Democrats, because Trump is leading Clinton. The best news for Grassley is his job approval rating: 56 percent, with only 33 percent disapproving of his work in the Senate. However, only 25 percent of Monmouth’s respondents approve of the Judiciary Committee chair’s decision not to hold hearings on U.S. Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.

Grassley’s favorables are in net positive territory, according to Monmouth: 46 have a favorable opinion of him, 31 percent unfavorable. Judge has more room to grow: 30 percent favorable, 14 percent unfavorable, and 56 percent of respondents not knowing enough about her to have an opinion. Grassley’s campaign has been trying to define the Democratic challenger in a negative way, most recently claiming in a press release today that she is harder to find around Iowa than a Pokemon.

Any comments about the presidential or Senate race are welcome in this thread. Monmouth surveyed 401 “Iowa residents likely to vote in the November election” between July 8 and 11, producing a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent. Monmouth’s polling memo did not mention the likely voter screen used.

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Five reasons to doubt the new Loras College Iowa poll

A new Loras College poll shows Hillary Clinton enjoying a double-digit lead over Donald Trump: 48.2 percent to 33.8 percent with no other candidates named, and 44.0 percent to 30.7 percent in a field including Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson (6.0 percent) and Green Party nominee Jill Stein (2.2 percent).

The same poll of 600 Iowa registered voters finds Senator Chuck Grassley barely ahead of Democratic challenger Patty Judge, 45.8 percent to 44.5 percent.

Unfortunately for optimistic Democrats, this poll appears to be an outlier.

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Will 2016 be a record-setting year for Libertarians in Iowa?

The two most recent national polls of the presidential race showed unusually high levels of support for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. In the NBC/Wall Street Journal survey conducted between June 19 and 23, presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was backed by 39 percent of respondents, to 38 percent for presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, 10 percent for Johnson and 6 percent for Green Party candidate Jill Stein. An ABC/Washington Post poll in the field between June 20 and 23 found 47 percent of respondents for Clinton, 37 percent for Trump, 7 percent for Johnson, and 3 percent for Stein.

Even taking into account the reality that support for third-party candidates “usually diminishes over the course of the [U.S. presidential] campaign,” and third-party candidates have often received less than half as much support on election day as they did in nationwide surveys from June, Johnson has potential to shatter previous records for Libertarians. A former Republican governor of New Mexico, Johnson received 1,275,821 popular votes as the Libertarian presidential nominee in 2012, just under 1 percent of the nationwide vote. The best showing for a Libertarian ticket in terms of vote share was 1.06 percent (921,128 votes) in 1980 for Ed Clark and his running mate David Koch, better known as one half of the Koch brothers.

I haven’t seen any Iowa polls yet that gave respondents the option of choosing Stein or Johnson as alternatives to Clinton and Trump, but now seems like a good time to examine Libertarian presidential performance in Iowa over the last four decades and Johnson’s chances to improve on his 2012 results.

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Super Tuesday election results and discussion thread

Polls have closed in a few of the Super Tuesday primary states, so here’s a thread for any comments about the Democratic or Republican presidential contests. I will update this post periodically with results. So far Virginia and Georgia have been called for Hillary Clinton, while Vermont was called for Bernie Sanders. In his victory speech, Sanders vowed to take his fight to every one of the 35 states that have not yet voted.

On the Republican side, Donald Trump is the early winner in Georgia and is expected to win most of today’s primaries and caucuses. However, the size of his delegate lead will depend greatly on how many other candidates exceed the threshold for winning delegates in various states. Guest author fladem’s post on Republican delegate scenarios is essential reading, in case you missed it yesterday.

UPDATE: A disappointing night for the “Stop Trump” forces. (By the way, who was it who said, “whenever you hear about a ‘Stop X’ campaign, bet on X?”) Ted Cruz won Texas and Oklahoma, Marco Rubio won Minnesota, and Trump looks likely to sweep the rest of the states. John Kasich and Rubio split enough moderate votes to give Trump the win in Vermont and perhaps also in Massachusetts. Rubio may not hit the 20 percent threshold needed to win any delegates in some of the southern states. Trying to put a good spin on the results, Rubio told CNN that “this was supposed to be Ted Cruz’s big night” and depicted himself as the only person who can stop Trump from winning the GOP nomination. The look on his face when Jake Tapper asked him whether he was in denial was priceless.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie didn’t look very happy at Trump’s victory party. The times being what they are, Christie’s face spawned immediate memes and caption contests. So far this is my favorite: “That moment when you realize you misunderstood literally every Bruce Springsteen song.”

Clinton had a very big night. Sanders is on track to win just four states: Vermont, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Colorado. Massachusetts was probably a must-win for him. According to Nate Silver, “Clinton is running ahead of her benchmarks by an average of 16 percentage points tonight, which is equivalent to her holding a 16-point lead over Sanders in national polls.”

Twitter user Xenocrypt (who long ago posted a fascinating piece here) commented tonight, “A socialist won in Oklahoma! Just like old times. Really, really old times.” Turns out Oklahoma had one of our country’s strongest socialist parties a hundred years ago.

Clinton won the four states awarding the most delegates by large margins. Nate Cohn commented, “The biggest lesson of the Sanders campaign is that there is no progressive/left majority in the Democratic Party without black voters.” Farai Chideya speculated, “Pragmatism about black political interests and how the game is played is likely the primary factor [in Clinton’s overwhelming margin among African-Americans], since Sanders has also spoken to issues of core interest to black voters.”

WEDNESDAY MORNING UPDATE: In the UK, they would call this “a right royal mess” for Republicans. By splitting the establishment vote, Kasich and Rubio allowed Trump to win Vermont and Virginia by narrow margins. Trump also barely won Arkansas. Cruz picked up Alaska, despite Sarah Palin’s Trump endorsement. Rubio missed the cutoff for at-large delegates in Texas and Alabama. Cruz outperformed his recent polling numbers to win Texas by a wide margin. One unofficial delegate count puts Trump at 338, with 233 delegates for Cruz, 112 for Rubio, 27 for Kasich and 8 for Carson; full spreadsheet here.

According to Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report, Clinton easily surpassed the number of delegates she needed to put her on track to win the Democratic nomination.

Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, who ran for president as a Libertarian in 2012 and is doing so again this year, said in a statement I’ve enclosed below that he “may have won Super Tuesday,” because more voters will be looking for a third-party alternative to Clinton or Trump.

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Romney backers seeking to knock Gary Johnson off Iowa ballot (updated)

A three-member panel voted today to allow Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson to be on the Iowa ballot, but supporters of Republican Mitt Romney are expected to take their case to court.

UPDATE: Added more background below on why the Iowa Secretary of State’s office rejected the Libertarians’ first set of petitions to place Johnson on the ballot.

SECOND UPDATE: A Polk County district court will resolve this dispute.

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PPP finds Ron Paul leading Iowa, Gingrich "imploding"

Maybe “Organize, organize, organize and then get hot at the end” isn’t outdated Iowa caucus wisdom after all. Public Policy Polling’s latest survey of Iowa Republicans finds Representative Ron Paul slightly ahead of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich dropped to third place.

UPDATE: The Republican polling firm Insider Advantage/Majority Opinion Research has also picked up on the Gingrich slide and Paul gain. Details are at the end of this post.

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Republican presidential debate discussion thread

Nine Republican presidential candidates are debating in Orlando tonight at an event sponsored by Google, Fox News and the Florida Republican Party. Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson will be on stage along with the eight candidates who participated in two debates earlier this month. I don’t know what they’ll tell us tonight that we didn’t hear at the Reagan Library or at the CNN/Tea Party Express debate, but I’ll update this post later with highlights.

Meanwhile, use this thread for any comments about tonight’s debate or the presidential campaign in general. Representative Thad McCotter, who has been excluded from all televised debates so far, announced today that he’s out of the race. He will back former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Few people besides former Iowa House Speaker Chris Rants will notice McCotter’s absence.

Iowa GOP/Fox debate discussion thread

Eight Republican candidates take the stage this evening in Ames for a debate co-hosted by Fox “News” and the Republican Party of Iowa: Representative Michele Bachmann, former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, Representative Ron Paul, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum.

Several Republicans who have launched presidential campaigns weren’t invited to the debate, including former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, longtime GOP activist Fred Karger (the first openly gay Republican presidential candidate), and Representative Thad McCotter. Fox made that call because those candidates didn’t receive an average of 1 percent support in five national polls. It’s an especially tough break for McCotter, who might have assumed automatic entry to the debate after paying for space at Saturday’s straw poll event. He will be on the straw poll ballot, along with the eight candidates debating tonight.

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry isn’t in Ames because he hasn’t officially declared his candidacy. Perry will try to bigfoot the straw poll by making his intentions clear on Saturday in South Carolina.

I’ll update this post later. Meanwhile, comments about the debate or the GOP presidential race are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: Thoughts about the debate are after the jump.

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Iowa State Fair tips and soapbox schedule

The oppressive summer heat broke in time for today’s opening of the Iowa State Fair. I’ve posted some of my tips for enjoying the fair below, along with the schedule for this week at the Des Moines Register’s “soapbox.” Ten Republican presidential candidates (including one I’d never heard of) are speaking, along with Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

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New Hampshire Republican debate discussion thread

For those who plan to watch this evening’s CNN debate featuring seven Republican presidential candidates, here’s a new discussion thread on the race for the GOP nomination.

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty tried to set the media narrative going into the debate. During a Sunday morning appearance on Fox News, Pawlenty noted, “President Obama said that he designed ‘Obamacare’ after ‘Romneycare’ and basically made it ‘Obamneycare.’” Romney’s campaign responded, “Republicans should keep the focus on President Obama’s failure to create jobs and control spending.” Easier said than done, given how unpopular the health insurance reform law is with the GOP primary electorate.

Pawlenty has traded blows with Representative Michele Bachmann over the past few days:

During a Friday interview, Neil Cavuto of Fox showed Mr. Pawlenty a poll indicating he’s running at the back of the pack and he asked the former governor if he was annoyed that Ms. Bachmann seems to generate more buzz than he does. “Look,” he replied, “I’m not speaking about Michele Bachmann here but I’m not running for comedian-in-chief or entertainer-in-chief. You know, if people want to have that be the main consideration, they should go to a Broadway show.”

In a WSJ Opinion interview Saturday, Ms. Bachmann was asked whether Mr. Pawlenty as a good governor. “I really don’t want to comment,” she said.

Some Iowa Republicans believe Pawlenty is best positioned to capitalize on last week’s mass exodus of Newt Gingrich staffers and Romney’s decision not to contest the Ames straw poll.  I find it hard to see Pawlenty drawing a lot of enthusiastic support from the rank and file. If he seems to be on the rise, it won’t be hard for other candidates to bring up his terrible record of fiscal management.

Besides Pawlenty, Romney, Bachmann and Gingrich, the CNN debate will also include former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain, Representative Ron Paul, and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum. CNN excluded some candidates who have been campaigning in New Hampshire, such as former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson and longtime campaign operative Fred Karger, probably the best-known Republican supporter of marriage equality.

Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman decided against participating in this debate, but he is likely to announce his candidacy in the next two weeks. Appearing on CNN yesterday, Huntsman indicated that he would accelerate the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. His campaign will put foreign policy experience front and center, but Huntsman has also begun to criticize President Barack Obama’s economic record. If he did that on the debate stage, his rivals would surely point out that Huntsman supported the 2009 federal stimulus.

Pundits increasingly speculate that Texas Governor Rick Perry will run for president. He has reportedly been talking to major donors, and could hire a couple of the senior staffers who quit the Gingrich campaign. I don’t see Perry as a strong presidential candidate. Linda Feldman discussed some of his weaknesses in the Christian Science Monitor, but she left out one other glaring problem in his record. This year Texas had the second-largest projected state budget shortfall in the country (as a percentage of current-year state government spending), even larger than California’s.

UPDATE: I didn’t watch the debate, but Republican insiders seem to think it was a good night for Romney and Bachmann and a bad night for Pawlenty.

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Gingrich implodes, Romney skips straw poll and other Iowa caucus news

Political junkies may not have Newt Gingrich to kick around much longer. His whole presidential campaign staff quit yesterday, frustrated by the candidate’s lack of a work ethic.

Iowa Republicans will have fewer chances to kick Mitt Romney around this summer. The former Massachusetts governor won’t compete in the Iowa GOP’s straw poll this August, his campaign confirmed yesterday.

After the jump I have more links on those stories and other Republican presidential candidate news. I’ve got nothing on the Iowa GOP Lincoln dinner fundraiser that was supposed to be held tonight, though, because the state party canceled that event after Donald Trump backed out.

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